To kick off my stint here at STLHatTrick, I am going to write a “Six-pack” of free agents the St. Louis Cardinals should invest in this winter.
I will write a new entry each day this week as we prepare for free agency. For the first day, we will focus on what I consider to be the most important free agent the St. Louis Cardinals need this winter; Yu Darvish.
The St. Louis Cardinals need a starting pitcher. It is the most important piece of the puzzle this offseason. I, for one, did not understand the timing of the Mike Leake trade. Unless they intend on signing or trading for a starting pitcher this winter, it just didn’t make sense. The Cardinals simply do not have enough innings with the guys they have penciled into the rotation right now to get through the season.
Right now, they have Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, and a couple of guys like John Gant, Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes to battle for the 5th spot. Martinez is the only one that can be counted on to give them 180+ IP in 2018. Michael Wacha hasn’t worked 180 innings since 2015. We all know Wainwright is in the twilight of an excellent career, but the man is running on fumes.
Weaver turned in a career-high 138 IP between stints at Memphis and St. Louis. So, he is on pace for what, 160 inning cap in 2018? John Gant is an enigma who hasn’t quite found a concrete role with the club since his trade from Atlanta in the Jaime Garcia deal. Jack Flaherty seems like he would be a logical choice for the spot as he turned in 170 IP between stints at AA Springfield, AAA Memphis, and the big league club.
However, in his small sample size in the majors in late September, he looked underwhelming at times. His stuff wasn’t very sharp and that could be due to fatigue, but it is concerning. The best path for Flaherty may be what Weaver did in 2016 when he got his feet wet in the majors only to go down to Memphis and hone his skills even more to start 2017.
Finally, there is the future ace, Alex Reyes. As we know, Reyes is coming off Tommy John surgery. He will be right at 12 months rehab when he arrives in Jupiter next February. Will he be ready for a starter’s workload? Does the front office and coaching staff prefer to use him in the bullpen to start the season? See, more question marks.
The answer to this problem lies with free-agent, Yu Darvish. He is an excellent starting pitcher that can easily fill the void left by the departure of Lance Lynn. At just 31 years old Darvish is a workhorse who has turned in 180+ IP in three of his 6 seasons since coming over from Japan in 2012. He had a couple of seasons interrupted by Tommy John surgery, but outside of that, he’s been quite reliable.
The biggest asset that comes with Darvish is his ability to get punch-outs. He has struck out 200+ hitters in a season 3 times, including 209 K’s in 2017 for the Rangers and Dodgers. You know what heals an average defense? Strikeouts. The fewer balls put in play, the better the defense is going to look.
There was some decline starting to show during his time with Texas this past season, but that started to correct back to his career norms when he left via trade to the Dodgers in July. The National League will do him wonders being able to face an opposing pitcher instead of a DH. Darvish’s numbers look very similar to that of Carlos Martinez.
They would make a great 1A and 1B in terms of being the “ace” of the staff. You know what beats an Ace? Two Kings. That is what you would have in Darvish and Martinez anchoring the Cardinals rotation for the foreseeable future.
This is where its time to put up or shut up. In the 2015 offseason, the Cardinals brass was willing to go a reported 6 years, $180M on David Price. They missed out as Boston offered a ridiculous amount north of $200M for his services. They needed a guy like Price then and they need a guy like Darvish now.
John Mozeliak (Team President of Baseball Operations) frequently talks about the “puke point”. The point during negotiations they get to that makes them want to puke, whether that be because of the cost or the possibility of losing out on someone. They need to take some Dramamine and get the deal done this time.
Based on Darvish’s numbers and current age, he is sitting firmly between two recently signed contracts. The first one being that of Johnny Cueto. Cueto signed a 6 year, $130M contract with the Giants prior to his age 30 season in 2016.
The same offseason the Cardinals lost out on David Price. Cueto and Darvish’s career numbers really line up quite similarly. The second contract Darvish falls in line with would be that of Detroit Tigers pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann.
In the same offseason as Cueto and Price, Zimmermann signed a 5 year, $110M contract prior to his age 30 season. Based on these recent precedent, I will peg Darvish at a 5 year, $125M pact. It is time to step up and sign a front of the rotation starting pitcher to bolster this staff going forward.St. Louis Cardinals: 2017 Problems Abound
The Cardinals can quite easily fit this contract into the payroll and need to do so. Mo needs to hit the puke point, only this time because he had too much celebratory champagne after he locked up the best starting pitcher on the market this winter.
Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow for Part two of the “Six Pack”!